Queer Machine Checks Up on Ether Drift (Dec, 1932)

Queer Machine Checks Up on Ether Drift

SCIENTISTS at Jena, Germany, have constructed one of the most amazing and odd-appearing measuring devices on record. It is an apparatus to measure the drift of the ether, that impalpable substance which, according to one school of thought, fills the space in which the universe swims. Theoretically the motion of the earth, passing through this ether, should set up a drift comparable to the breeze generated by the motion of an automobile through the air.

To determine if such a drift actually does exist, the elaborate optical apparatus shown on this page was built by German scientists It consists of four arms on a perpendicular axis, containing a series of mirrors, lenses, and reflecting plates. A ray of light enters at the top of the device and is bounced back and forth thousands of times, finally emerging at the bottom, where its passing leaves a record on a photographic plate.

A study of the photographs, one of which is reproduced above, leads scientists to the conclusion that ether drift, if it exists at all, must be less than 1 1/2 miles per second, instead of the 10 mile per second figure arrived at by some earlier investigators. Complicated mathematics involving the bending of light rays entered into the scientific conclusions.

All previous experiments of this nature have depended on the human eye for their conclusions.

  1. William says: December 24, 20077:49 am

    Isn’t this just another version of the Michelson-Morley experiment? If so, what were they doing building these things 40 years later?

  2. MB says: December 24, 20078:32 am

    It has something to do with Aryan vs. Jewish science — because Einstein was Jewish, Nazis did not accept the theory of relativity.

  3. Charlie says: December 24, 20078:47 am

    I think there are two reasons. First, this experiment had longer arms than the MM one. Second this one used a photographic detector rather than relying on a person to to judge it.

  4. Mitch says: December 24, 20078:55 am

    The Nazis didn’t come to power until Jan 1933, so it seems unlikely that this had much to do with their racial views.

  5. charles kiddell says: December 24, 20076:12 pm

    Um, no. There is nothing obviously queer about this machine. If you do an experiment and it has a result or the opposite result, it is a legitimate experiment. My parents had an old physics textbook lying around the house from the early 30s that mentioned the “ether.” We know there is no ether now, so what is the big deal? they were looking for it then and didn’t find evidence for it. The Michelson/Morely experiment had been done decades earlier, but this is a more subtle machine. If you look for something and don’t find it your experiment has succeeded.

  6. Firebrand38 says: December 24, 20077:36 pm

    In the context of 1932 it’s queer insofar that it’s unusual or according to the Etymology Dictionary http://www.etymonline.c… “1508, “strange, peculiar, eccentric,” from Scottish, perhaps from Low Ger. (Brunswick dialect) queer “oblique, off-center,” related to Ger. quer “oblique, perverse, odd,” from O.H.G. twerh “oblique,” from PIE base *twerk- “to turn, twist, wind” (related to thwart). The verb “to spoil, ruin” is first recorded 1812. Sense of “homosexual” first recorded 1922; the noun in this sense is 1935, from the adj.”

  7. Robert Horton says: December 25, 20074:50 pm

    Except for the photo being unstylishly monochrome, I also can’t see what makes this apparatus “loony”. From the description and its appearance, it seems to be designed to look for a tiny phase shift difference between interferometer legs oriented parallel and perpendicular to any hypothetical ether velocity. (Imagine a water-wave apparatus in a moving stream, which would in fact allow the water velocity to be inferred.) Tney may have in fact measured zero ether velocity, but that would be a useful,if unexciting (by 1932) result.

  8. Casandro says: December 26, 20079:11 am

    It was probably buildt by Zeiss http://en.wikipedia.org…

  9. Paul Crowley says: December 27, 20076:08 am

    Could it be this experiment? The date is right…


  10. Mikey says: January 2, 20084:56 am

    People will probably be just as disparaging about the quest for the Higgs boson in 50 years time.

  11. Leland says: June 6, 20114:33 pm

    they are looking for Ether from the “Ether Drift” theory proposed by Dayton Miller. Funny how when he was alive he could consistently answer all of his critics questions. Only after he was dead was the Shankland team put together to disprove him. But they only used part of his evidence as research, and never performed any experiments of their own. They “arm chair” disproved the theory and it was wiped from modern text books and only mentioned as a side note.
    Miller performed more experiments and collected more data than anyone else on the subject. He always had an answer to questions and could explain what other people were doing differently when they cited their results against him. He also built the largest and most accurate light beam interferometer in existence. Just google ether drift theory and read for yourself :-)

  12. John says: June 6, 20115:16 pm

    Leland » There’s no ether, get over it.


    By the way, in answer to your statement, “He always had an answer to questions and could explain what other people were doing differently when they cited their results against him.” Yeah, that’s called rationalization. Same thing can be said about that end of the world asshole.

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